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Symbolic Wings

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''Then the Winged Hussars arrived!
Coming down the mountainside!''


A visual element of character design that invokes the image of a Winged Humanoid. As such, it conveys the same kinds of messages about the character in question and can indicate purity, goodness, spiritual power, divinity, etc. However, because these are not actual wings they don't require an explicit acceptance of the supernatural.

These "wings" might be added deliberately by the character to make a point, or could be an incidental result of pragmatic costume choices, or even forced upon them unwittingly. Because they can be made of any material, they lend themselves well to Good Wings, Evil Wings and can convey character traits more specifically than typical bird wings. In particular, cables are often used in Cyberpunk settings to imply a Deus est Machina.

Compare "Spread Wings" Frame Shot when the wingly image is formed by something behind the character, achieving much the same end as a Background Halo.

Power Gives You Wings is a subtrope. See also Hair Wings, Mercury's Wings, Wings Do Nothing.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In The Big O, Angel has scarring on her back resembling wings, believed to be inflicted during her forgotten childhood.
  • In one episode of FLCL, Canti is seen wearing little black wings and an obviously fake halo. They don't do anything except convince Mamimi that he's a god...
  • In Kanon, Ayu is associated with angels, as the lost item she is looking for is a small angel doll, and her design includes a backpack with attached cartoony angel wings. The opening movie also includes a symbolic picture of her with full angel wings.
  • Mobile Suit Gundam Wing: Endless Waltz: When the newly upgraded Wing Zero unfurls its wings, it reveals a set of four, which are angelic in design. Whereas the wings of Deathscythe Hell first appear to be a black cloak, in keeping with its Reaper design. When Duo opens them, they take the form of bat wings; effectively invoking Good Wings, Evil Wings.
  • In Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, the prophecied savior is believed to be dressed all in blue and have great white wings. Nausicaa's dress was stained blue by Ohmu blood, and her "wings" are actually her glider.

    Comic Books 
  • Batman: Batman's cape is frequently depicted as a pair of bat wings, which he uses as an intimidation/scare tactic when confronting criminals.
  • The Golden Age costume of The Flash featured a helmet sporting Mercury's Wings, but like their mythological inspiration this just symbolised Super-Speed, not flight.

  • Batman (1989): Two petty crooks are on a rooftop discussing their latest haul and the recent rumors of "The Bat" going around Gotham City. They hear footsteps behind them, look up, and see a humanoid bat figure who spreads his cape wide open...
  • In the buildup to the finale of Hot Fuzz, Sergeant Angel gears up with numerous guns, including two rifles which he straps to his back to create a winglike image.
  • In both the film and the book of The Lord of the Rings, the Gondorian Guard are depicted as having helmets with integral symbolic wings. The soldiers' version has the wings crafted as an integral part of the helmet shell rather than protruding but the Crown of Gondor worn by the King has fully-fledged wings like a bird in flight.
  • The cyberpunk version is used in The Matrix Revolutions when Neo is connected to the Machine mainframe. It's later combined with Crucified Hero Shot.
  • Twilight: When Edward is seated in the science class at school, there's a stuffed and mounted owl behind him. At one point, the camera view makes it look like the owl's wings belong to Edward.
  • In William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet, Juliet is introduced at a costume party wearing an angel costume. This probably represents either her purity or her status as an object of worship for Romeo.

  • The brief description of the Balrog in The Lord of the Rings mentions wings; however, the vagueness of the description has led to fandom contention as to whether it is actually winged or if the smoke and flame issuing from it merely takes a shape that resembles wings. For the film adaptation, a sort of middle-ground was chosen in which the Balrog seems to have wings of flame.
  • Words of Radiance: For the finale, Kaladin regains his powers and flies at high speed to the location of the battle. When he lands, a burst of energy creates an image of wings behind him, although this is not a symbol that has cultural meaning in the setting (because there are no birds). Instead, the symbol is writing in the symmetrical glyph language that happens to look like wings.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer. When Buffy is resurrected from the dead at the start of Season Six, she's walking through a graveyard and due to the camera angle appears to have the wings of an angel statue growing from her back. This foreshadows The Reveal that she was brought back from Heaven, not from some terrible hell dimension as her friends supposed.
  • Doctor Who: Played for Horror in "Village of the Angels" when Claire Brown looks in the mirror and sees a vision of herself with stone angel wings growing from her back. It shows she's been possessed by a Weeping Angel, an Eldritch Abomination that takes the form of an angel statue.
  • The final episode of Game of Thrones has Daenerys walking before her dragon as he unfurls his wings, reinforcing the image of Dragon Queen — or Fallen Angel.
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power:
    • Elrond wears pauldrons resembling feathers over his tunic, which are a reference to his mother Elwing. She was transformed into a great white bird by the Vala Ulmo when the Sons of Fëanor came for the Silmaril in her possession.
    • Some of the Numenorian Guards wear helmets with integral wings, similar to those from the movies.
  • Helena from Orphan Black has extensive scarring on her back — that she likely did to herself — that make out the shape of wings. At first it symbolizes her being a religious fanatic, but later she becomes a "guardian angel" for her twin sister Sarah.
  • Smallville: In the pilot, when Clark's parents tell him that he's an alien, he runs at super-speed and eventually finds himself in a cemetery at the same time Lana is visiting her parents. When she looks at Clark, he is standing in front of an angel statue, giving the appearance of him having wings.
  • Supernatural: The angels have something like this. You can occasionally see wings in their shadows, and when they die, they leave burned scars in the shape of wings on the ground. When they teleport, you can also hear the sound of wings.

    Mythology & Religion 
  • The Bible: The popular depiction of Christian angels is a man or a woman dressed in white robes with dove wings on their backs. However, the Biblical description is....somewhat different.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • The elite assault tropes and characters of the Blood Angels Chapter of Adeptus Astartes often decorate their jump packs with large angelic wings in imitation of the mighty pinions of their Primarch, the Great Angel Sanguinius. The angelic image that these wings give these mighty warriors greatly boosts the morale of their allies and strikes fear in the hearts of their enemies.
    • The bikers of the Dark Angel's Ravenwing typically sport one or two ornamental wings attached to their saddles, giving them a visual appearance similar to that of the historical Polish Winged Hussars. These wings often incorporate the biker's teleport homer so that they can call in the Deathwing once their quarry has been run to ground.

    Toys & Collectibles 
  • The Airfix company issued a figure set representing "Ancient Britons" — generic Celtic warriors to be wargaming opposition to their Roman Legion. It can be seen from the figure types included that two figures, the Battle Chieftain and the chariot crewman, have been given stylised winged helmets. The Chieftain excessively so — see Real Life. Airfix based these figures and their equipment on extensive research of Celtic British artefacts held in the British Museum — except for the winged helmet which appears to be artistic licence!
  • The Polish Winged Hussars who feature in the page header illustration are also available in miniature.

    Video Games 
  • BlazBlue: The "Murakumo Units" Lambda 11, and Nu 13 are Robot Girls with flying swords as their main weapon; said swords generally float behind them in a winglike formation.
  • Deus Ex: Mankind Divided: Continuing the Icarus motif from the previous game, promotional shots feature Adam Jensen standing in front of a rack of yellow lights posed to look like wings.
  • Diablo:
    • Maghda, a persistent secondary villain in Diablo III, has a pair of withermoths (essentially giant electric dragonflies) on her shoulders, which sometimes flap and fly up a short distance. She also hovers, but this is probably due to her own magic rather than allowed by the insects.
    • Diablo also has winglike spikes emerging from its back.
  • In The Legend of Zelda, the national and royal crests of Hyrule include the Triforce surrounded by stylized wings. These wing motifs appear in numerous Hylian designs, including the king's crown.
  • In Ninety-Nine Nights, a pair of wings is one of the features of Inphyy's armor.
  • In Onmyōji (2016), Seimei's default outfit has crane wing motifs on its long sleeves.
  • In Overwatch, Mercy's entire motif is angelic mercy, and she plays it for all it's worth; she's a borderline-superhuman healer, her default costume is mostly shining white with lots of golden trim, she has glowing wings, she flies to her patients, she's a pacifist, she's a pale and statuesque blond woman, and she sometimes literally announces to her own arrival as a guardian angel.
    • Some of her costumes play this out in inverse (demonic, imp, and witch costumes) or in analog from other cultures (her two Norse costumes, one literally called Valkyrie, and her Greek Goddess costume).
    • For the first year of the game, the wings were barely functional, giving her gliding and instantaneous burst of flight at most. After her major rework, her new ultimate (Valkyrie Mode) turns the wings on and gives her free flight in any direction.
  • The Queen of Blades in StarCraft has a pair of skeletal claws on her back that resemble wings. Unlike many examples, she actually uses these to attack. She continues to sport these in StarCraft II, even after being returned to human form, regaining her original personality, and then willingly becoming Zerg again. In the epilogue of Legacy of the Void, after Ascending to a Higher Plane of Existence, she becomes an energy being with actual wings.

  • Godslave has Mary, one of a pair of twins, occasionally framed with wings in the background, possibly to invoke symbolism of the Ba half of the soul.
  • Pixie Trix Comix has Tess, a pro wrestler whose wrestling persona is some kind of supernatural ice-being. When her costume receives an upgrade, it emphasises this image by incorporating a large pair of decorative gossamer wings, later switched to something less unwieldy and more ice-like. (The wings are removed when she actually fights in the ring.)
  • Wilde Life occasionally puts main character Oscar in a position where it looks like he has angel wings. This is likely some manner of foreshadowing that hasn't paid off yet.

    Western Animation 
  • In The Venture Brothers, the Monarch and his henchmen have butterfly wings as part of their costumes. However, it's eventually revealed that these actually allow flight, somehow.

    Real Life 
  • The Polish Hussars, heavy cavalry used in the 16th-18th centuries. It's not known why they wore the impractical wings, with the most accepted theory being intimidation. (See Wings Do Nothing for more information.)